Donors target €4bn for Mali democracy

2013-05-15 22:10

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Brussels - Nations and groups from around the world were meeting on Wednesday to counter a global threat: They want to help convert the West African country of Mali turn into a viable state rather than a haven for terrorists.

The objective of the donors' conference in Brussels is to raise €2bn to support an ambitious €4.3bn plan drafted by Malian officials to turn their country into a stable democracy.

Mali fell into crisis in 2012 as rebel groups took over the north and a military coup ousted the government, based in the south. Many international officials feared that Mali's vast ungoverned northern area was allowing terrorist groups free reign to hatch worldwide plots.

As the conference opened on Wednesday, Mali's finance minister, Tiena Coulibaly, said the country's crisis had also brought grave consequences for Malians, as hotels stood empty and trade and the economy collapsed.

"This has led to poverty - extreme poverty - to unemployment and the occurrence of disease," Coulibaly said.

Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme, said the situation for Malians is dire.

"We still have 300 000 people who are internally displaced from northern Mali living in southern Mali, and another 175 000 people who are in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania," Cousin told The Associated Press. "The government is now estimating that over 660 000 children under the age of five are in danger of being chronically malnourished."

Beyond that, she said, more than 700 000 adults "are in need of immediate food assistance."

In January, France, Mali's former colonial master - acting on the request of the Malian government - sent troops to retake control of the northern region. They were ultimately assisted by troops from other African countries and the effort has largely been a success.

But the question is what comes next.

Difficult peace

"The war is being won," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday. "We must now win the peace."

EU officials, saying that elements of Malian army were unpaid and poorly trained, sent a mission earlier this year to train portions of the armed forces so in the future they could keep control of the country's territory without foreign help.

And international officials have insisted that, in exchange for assistance, that Mali return to democracy. Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, announced Tuesday that presidential elections would begin 28 July and that neither he nor members of his government would be candidates.

Still, Mali's needs are enormous, according to EU officials. Roads and schools need to be rebuilt, as well as the economy. Talks with different ethnic groups - including the Tuaregs in the north, who have rebelled periodically for years - must be held.

Wednesday's conference was organised by France, the European Union and Mali.

Read more on:    mali  |  west africa

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